On Michaelmas Eve, twin brothers and amateur sleuths Horatio and Eustace Bleakley leave school to stay with Aunt Maude in her rambling manor, Old Bramble Head, along with all their odd relatives. The mansion is situated in a marsh and comes with the curse that Old Bramble Head will rise from the swamp once a year, at Michealelmas naturally, to claim a new Bleakley victim.
When one of the boys’ uncles is found murdered, the race is on to solve the crime before the police inspector can and before the bodies mount up.
Set in the early 20th century, there’s a dry humour and wit to the writing – the series has been compared to PG Wodehouse – but little by way of depth to character or story, which feels deliberate. It’s odd that the boys have first names but the girl in it, their cousin Loveday, doesn’t. Loveday writes and edits the Murder and Mayhem Magazine to pass the time at boarding school and is training a rat she catches on their first night in the manor and feels far more interesting that the main characters. But so does Oliver Davenport, the Poor Unfortunate (aka orphan) that their aunt has taken in for the occasion and who is happy to capitalise on his parents’ wealthy connections.
For children who want a whodunnit filled with eccentric characters in a spooky setting, this murder mystery will be an easy and speedy read.